Saturday, July 2, 2011

Black Christmas I gave you my heart, the very next day you suffocated me with a dry cleaning bag.

This post was meant to go up yesterday as it was Canada Day but in between helping friends move, saying goodbye to a friend going traveling and other various festivities it simply didn't happen. But here we are. I did manage to catch a free screening of Bob Clark's 1974 masterpiece Black Christmas and oh baby was I ever feeling national pride walking out of that.

Black Christmas is set in a sorority house that's been receiving obscene phone calls for the past while. The sorority sisters take the calls, some deeming them funny others feeling the impending dread coming. As the events spin out of control the audience is privy to the fact that indeed the calls are coming from inside the house. Simple, non? Well, not exactly. Black Christmas is a classic because it broke the mold on slasher films, created tropes that would be repeated endlessly, brought some terrific performances and is creepy as fuck well before John Carpenter got around to doing it.

If you've seen any of the Holy Grail slasher (Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street) you'll be able to pick out its characteristics in no time. The POV killer scenes, the killer with a violent past, the inept authority figures, having John Saxon in it,  and the Final Girl. Now, in almost every other slasher flick the Final Girl (the character who survives the traumatic events of the film, almost always female) is virginal and pure. In Black Christmas they subvert that right at the beginning having the virginal good girl die first and having the Final Girl figure contemplate having an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy throughout the film. This is both the antithesis of what we've come to accept as a Final Girl, yet also one of the best representations of it. Olivia Hussey's Jess is fragile and delicate but her transformation into someone who fights back is just as believable.

Bob Clark's direction is spot on devoting equal amounts of time to the goings on in the sorority house, the Killer and the disappearance of girls that begins to effect the outside community. Clark knows where the terror lies in pieces like this. It lies in the expectations of the audience and the lack of knowledge that the characters posses. Anticipation can be a bitch.

The script by Roy Moore, though having huge gaps in logic, does a fantastic job of developing each sorority sister into a full fledged human being and giving weight to the horror of the film while also imbuing it with comedic moments.

Remember when characters smoked in movies? Instant street cred.
 Black Christmas is a true horror classic in every sense of the word. So much so that the unfortunate remake brought about more love for the original. Without Black Christmas the horror landscape would be completely different from how we know it today. It would be so different that I don't even want to imagine it.

Black Christmas, I stand on guard for thee.

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